Tatiana Bryant | Contributor | Tatiana.Bryant@gmail.com
Tatiana Bryant is a Reference Associate in the Humanities and Social Sciences Center at New York University Libraries and an Adjunct Librarian at academic libraries throughout NYC. She is a graduate of the SILS program at Pratt Institute.
What is THATCamp?
This fall I had the opportunity to attend two THATCamps (The Humanities and Technology Camp), one in Philadelphia and the other at Brandeis University in New England. THATCamp is an “unconference” – an inexpensive, informal meeting open to anyone (humanists and technologists of all skill levels) interested in the intersection of the Humanities and Technology (i.e. the Digital Humanities). No association membership or institution affiliation is needed, just a strong willingness to collaborate in an unstructured environment and an interest in experimenting with new tools.
THATCamp was created by the Center for New History and Media at George Mason University and funded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other sponsors. Volunteers at different universities and institutions offer to organize THATCamps at their respective institutions, typically over the course of a weekend. Participants decide on the curriculum content of workshops, writing and hacking sessions, and general discussions, which can range from: understanding the history of DH; scholarly communication and copyright issues; citation management using open source tools; digitization and preservation of humanities materials; manipulating and analyzing humanities data; visualization and web analytics; open access publishing; project management; text analysis; usability; web and computer programming and social media.
Attendees also volunteer to offer training on topics they are knowledgeable about and propose and facilitate discussion sessions on what interests them related to DH. A few of the workshops, trainings and discussions I attended included: DH project management, data manipulation using Google Refine, map creation using GIS, utilizing regular expressions for text analysis, and promoting linked open data. Now that they have established a pedagogical foundation, THATCamps have begun to expand outside of academia and specialize in smaller, related fields. For example, there is now THATCamp Museums, THATCamp Games, and recently THATCamp Pedagogy (which focuses on expanding the practice of DH among undergraduate communities) and THATCamp Publishing (which focuses on new publishing methods, Open Access, etc.) More information on THATCamps can be found at THATCamp.org.
What is the Digital Humanities (DH)?
The Digital Humanities, formally known as “Humanities Computing” is not a new concept, but an umbrella term still evolving into a formal definition that incorporates all of the potential it possesses. The scholar Kathleen Fitzpatrick has a definition that is frequently repeated–DH is “a nexus of fields within which scholars use computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities, or, as is truer of my own work, who ask traditional kinds of humanities-oriented questions about computing technologies.” To add some detail to that concept, in short, Digital Humanities scholarship often incorporates large data sets (textual, image, sound, etc.) affiliated with various humanities disciplines corpora and processed with digital tools and methods (i.e. text analysis tools, specially designed computer algorithms, information visualizations, quantitative methods, etc.) to promote new collaborative and publicly visible scholarship that dissects traditionally held assumptions, perceptions, and approaches in humanities research and pedagogy. Interested in viewing completed and in progress large-scale Digital Humanities projects? The National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities awarded several grants to excellent projects in their Digging Into Data Challenge.
THATCamp was an eye-opening experience for me. It was my first time attending an ‘unconference,’ as well as a professional event geared toward technology and skills acquisition, rather than a more narrowly focused library-related formal conference. I learned a lot from both THATCamps and I am especially grateful because the knowledge was largely practical and left me aspiring to gain new technological and pedagogical skills. I have also been inspired to become one of the coorganizers of the next THATCamp New York, a joint collaboration between library faculty at CUNY Hunter and humanist scholars at Fordham University, scheduled for fall 2012. This THATCamp will focus on tools and methods for developing strong collaborations between teaching faculty and information specialists to promote Digital Humanities education, projects, and scholarship across institutions, utilizing collections especially related to the theme of New York City history.
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. (2010) NITLE launches Digital Humanities initiative. National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. Accessed on 12/7/2011. http://blogs.nitle.org/2010/08/31/nitle-launches-digital-humanities-initiative/